Talking to Yourself Works: Here's Why You Should Do It

People think that those who talk to themselves aren't quite right in the head, when in fact, people who consciously talk to themselves are better at reading, recall, and…

People think that those who talk to themselves aren't quite right in the head, when in fact, people who consciously talk to themselves are better at reading, recall, and regulation of emotions So, start (self-)talking!

Self-talk is anything you say to yourself in your head, or out loud that mirrors spoken language. It is a key ingredient in the part of metacognition that is known as self-regulation.

5 Ways Self-Talk Helps

1. You can use it to psych yourself up

“Fake it till you make it” works on your brain, too. If you tell yourself you can do something, you will be more motivated to do so, and your success relies on it. Encouraging self-talk can include things like “I’m on the right track” or simply “I can do this!”

2. It's great for studying

This is one where self-talk and out-loud-talk work hand-in-hand. Reading your notes out loud increases recall and comprehension for tests since you are adding additional modalities to your learning. You're not just reading, you’re reading and speaking and hearing the information.

While studying for tests, you can also prepare action-oriented self-talks, such as “I will re-read each reading comprehension question” or “I will draw a diagram for Math word problems.” Mnemonics are an excellent way to talk to yourself. Here’s more about how to help you memorize material for a test.

3. It reduces stress

Worried about an upcoming test? Playing an important basketball game tomorrow? Reminding yourself of past successes is a form of self-talk that has proven to impact results positively. Some examples of this type of self-talk are, “I’ve done this before, I can do this” or “If I make a mistake, it’ll be okay.”

Better yet: focus on how you succeeded in the past versus focusing on the achievements, themselves. For example, "You studied a little bit every night and that helped you remember all the parts of a cell" is going to help you more than telling yourself "You got an A on that Science test."

Be mindful of your phrasing, though. If I tell you “Don’t think of an elephant!” chances are, you’re thinking of one right now, so self-talk is best when it is positive, such as “think of a cheetah.” Why? Negatives are linguistically more complex, thus more difficult for our brains to process.

4. You're more engaged with what you're reading

Good readers talk to themselves all the time! This is called active reading, and it is one of the highest and most consistent correlates of strong reading comprehension. Things you can tell yourself while reading include asking yourself questions like, “Why did she do that?” or prompts to reflect, “What was the point of that paragraph?”

5. You'll be better at meeting the criteria for an assignment

Any time your teacher gives you a rubric or a checklist is a great opportunity to transfer those elements into self-talk. If the assignment says, “Write three pages,” that can be translated into “Write three pages.” When editing an assignment for grammar, you can use self-talk to remind yourself of specific writing mechanics “I need to remember to put a comma before a coordinating conjunction,” or “I need to check that my punctuation is within my quotation marks.”

Try it!

Think of two specific occasions that self-talk could help you, and what you could say to yourself. Now, make yourself a reminder, like, “I will use self-talk on Wednesday to remind myself to pack my soccer shoes.”

And remember: the best self-talk is positively phrased, specific, encouraging, action-oriented, and focused on process over product. Self-talk may seem weird or tricky at first, but the more you do it, the more you will cue yourself to succeed.

Sources:

Carbone, L. (2014). 9 Surprising Benefits of Talking to Yourself. Rewire Me. Retrieved from Rewire Me.

Harris, K., Schmidt, T. & Graham, S. (1997). Strategies for Composition and Self-Regulation in the Writing Process. LD Online. Retrieved from LD Online.

Meltzer, L. (2010) Promoting Executive Functions in the Classroom, New York: The Guilford Press.

Mindset Works ® (2012) Growth Mindset Framing. Poster.

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N.K., Pearson, P., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade: A practice Guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: NAtional Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from WhatWorks.ed.gov.

Gary Lupyan, Daniel Swingley. Self-directed speech affects visual search performance. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2011; Retrieved from Science Daily.

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